Sunday, June 6, 2010
On this morning 66 years ago my father landed on Omaha Beach in the first wave of the invasion. He was a combat engineer, with the responsibility to blow up obstacles on the beach to let the tanks and equipment move about unimpeded. The battle, however, changed plans. He and everyone else there that morning needed to focus on the incoming fire and staying alive.
It didn't matter that the obstacles were left. No tanks arrived on Omaha Beach that day. The explosives were better used to clear away a path to the German emplacements on the top.
As my father was dying, nearly 50 years later, he wondered why his life was spared when so many of his friends died that day. A few years later when Saving Private Ryan was released it very much reminded me of my father.
I think of him every June 6th. It seems more clearly a day tied to him than either his birthday on February 20th or the day of his death November 20th. What a great man he was. Possessed with profound insight, tempered by the things he suffered, living in obscurity, quick to laugh, never angry and capable of giving wise advice. In all my life, I only saw him angry one time. But I think I heard him laugh every single day; oftentimes at himself.